It’s Jamie here. Welcome to September. Today I have a simple trick that will help you solve any problem. Well, almost any problem. That sock that disappeared in the washing machine last week is just long gone now, you need to accept it and move on.
But almost any other problem can be understood more fully and solved if you follow this ridiculously simple, powerful method.
How to Fix (Almost) Any Problem
The method has two steps. First you need to understand the problem; then you can fix it. Step 1 is where most people screw up. Let me use an example to help you understand as we go along.
Let’s say you keep getting to work late. Your boss is angry about it and you are starting to get scared that you’ll get fired. What is your problem?
Most people will answer like this. My problem is my boss is angry. Or my problem is I am always late.
While those answers are not incorrect, they are certainly incomplete. With a bit more probing, we can potentially understand your problem is a better way.
Ask “Why?” Ask it 5 times. Watch the magic at work. Let’s take the statement, “The problem is I am late” and apply Five Whys to it.
Why am I late. I sleep through my alarm. Why do I sleep through my alarm. Because it isn’t loud enough and I am so tired in the morning. (Maybe this problem can be solved by buying a louder alarm, but let’s keep digging deeper for more insights.) Why are you tired in the morning? I don’t sleep well at night. Why? (Don’t give a cheap answer here like, “I just never do, it is what it is, blah blah) Is your mattress uncomfortable? Are you stressed at night? Are you too cold? Too warm? Is your room too bright. Do you play video games before bed and the blue light from the TV interferes with your sleep later? Really dig in and answer why.
If you ask why at least 5 times, you’ll gain a true understanding of your problems. Sometimes the answers will shock you and introduce you to novel solutions you never imagined. Let’s illustrate this by asking why to our other answer – My problem is I have an angry boss.
Why is an angry boss a problem for me? He might fire me. Why is that a problem? I will lose my source of income. Why is that a problem, can you find any other sources? Maybe we are waking up late because this job is really not exciting us. Maybe we ought to be quitting it and launching our own business that we don’t need an alarm to wake us up for. Maybe there is a much bigger problem in our life than a cheap alarm clock. We might really need a career change or a diet change so we sleep better. You won’t easily identify those ideas though unless you relentlessly ask Why.
OK, that was step 1. Understand, really understand your problem by asking why… alot. Now step 2.
In step 2, you need to silence all the voices in your head that will push you toward a standard, boring answer to your Why questions. Be as optimistic and free-thinking as possible. Otherwise, you’ll never think of ideas like launching a business as a solution to your problem of waking up late.
I often find that it helps to run through the Five Whys exercise with a friend. Why? You are often unaware of the ruts in your mind that drive your thinking into the same patterns again and again. If you have a problem now, it means you haven’t figured out how to fix it yet. Some clear, focused positive thinking can give you novel solutions, but so too can a friend who is approaching your issue with fresh eyes and a different thought pattern.
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Good luck to all my problem-solving ninjas out there!
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